Volunteering has been a part of the NHS since it came into existence and many of the first publicly available hospitals were developed from voluntary donations.
You'll see volunteers working in many areas of NHS services, performing a wide range of different roles. From guiding people around a hospital, to visiting elderly patients in their home, NHS volunteers help to enhance the services we provide and improve the experience and wellbeing of patients and visitors.
Volunteering can be a perfect way to get first hand experience of working in the NHS which can be beneficial when applying for jobs and is often a requirement when applying for health related educational courses.
Volunteering can provide first-hand experience of working in a healthcare setting. This will help you to learn whether its the kind of thing you'd like to do in the future.
Through volunteering you can make contacts in the organisation, which can help when you start to apply for jobs or courses.
You'll be working alongside other volunteers and staff of all different ages and walks of life. It can be a great experience to meet new people with different life experiences to yours.
Volunteering can make a valuable addition to your CV or future job applications. Many university courses require some form of work experience and most employers will view this kind of activity favourably.
If you perform well in a volunteering role and show a long term commitment to the department you're supporting then your supervisor may well be willing to provide you with a reference for future applications for jobs or educational courses.
One of the best things about volunteering is the feeling you get from helping patients, visitors and your local community. This is a major reason that a lot of people like working in healthcare and may be a deciding factor for you in whether you pursue a career in this area.
Volunteering is a long term commitment of your time; when considering if you'd like to apply to volunteer consider whether you are willing to continue for 6 months or more. You'll normally be expected to volunteer for 3-4 hours each week, although you can often perform more than one shift if you like and some roles work on a more ad hoc or less regular basis.
There are a wide range of volunteering roles in the NHS with volunteers often providing support, which enhances existing services. Roles often involve supporting patients and visitors with support that is not part of the organisations normal or essential services like guiding visitors, having a chat with patients or fundraising.
The organisation you work for should reimburse you for your travel to and from your volunteering role, including both cost of travel by car or public transport. There may be a cap on the amount you can claim but this is usually at a level that will allow residents of the local area to get to and from their role.
If your application is successful then you will need to complete a registration process, which will often involve checks on your identity, criminal record (DBS check), training and an occupational health assessment.
This process can take from 1-2 months depending on a number of factors. It's important to consider this when you are planning your volunteering - you may not be able to start straight away. For example, if you wanted to start volunteering in July you might want to apply in March to make sure everything is completed in time.